Results tagged ‘ Rays Rays Renegade ’
I learned earlier today that former Rays batboy and Toronto Blue Jay hurler Litsch had officially announced his retirement during an interview with Jeff Sammut on Sportsnet 590 The Fan.
I’m a bit sad right now.
It truly sucks to learn that one of my baseball friends has decided to hang up his spikes for good because I know the game will miss his energy, determination, comedic antics and well as his steadfast perseverance.
But I’m also extremely glad because those same traits makeup a firm foundation for a great teacher of the game’s nuances and skills. So it’s going to sting a bit knowing Litsch has thrown his final pitch as an MLB player, but I’m excited as he embarks on another journey possibly having the thrill of coaching another player towards their goal of pulling on a MLB jersey.
I respect and admire Jesse for his want to give back to the game that has given him so much. Not just in money, but in lasting friendships, great connections and a boatload of memories that will spill out forever when conversing with his baseball and non-baseball friends and future students.
He might never have known this, but I used to be one of the first people into the Trop back when Jesse was a batboy for the Tampa Bay Rays. Sometimes I would just sit there in my usual seat at the bottom of Section 138 and watched silently as Jesse took side tosses and suggestions from former Rays Pitching Coach Bill Fischer.
You could see in Jesse’s concentration he had that special form of girt and want to become a success. I have to tell you, even back then while still a young hurler at Dixie Hollins, he had a nice drop on his curve ball and seemed to be toying with a cutter.
So it was no surprise to me Jesse would be drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 2004 MLB Draft. Then a little over 3 years later, on July 31, 2007, Jesse got to walk out to the Tropicana Field pitchers mound in his home town as his name bounced and echoed throughout the stadium.
I was there in the right field stands that night and remember well Litsch strolling to the mound in the bottom of the 1st inning and was on my feet to the dismay of some cheering for him as he made his exit after 6.2 innings of work.
I’m also glad to have gotten to know Litsch off the field as I attended his last 4 Jesse Litsch and Bechtel Financial Celebrity Golf Tournaments and got to witness another side of him that will only help him in his future endeavors.
Godspeed my friend.
If for nothing else, the Summer of 2014 is going to be known for ice cold buckets sloshing all over the heads, upper bodies and shoes of people from all walks of life. What’s a little H2O when it can be done for a great cause, and to also call out for friends, family, co-workers and maybe that one person you always wanted to get a little revenge on…..now is your chance.
The challenge is actually quite easy in thought: you get a full bucket of icy cold water, dump it over your head, record the action, post the video out and about on any or all of your social media outlets and then loudly call out or challenge anyone and everyone to also take the plunge and make a donation to the ALS Association.
I mean tons of famous and also non-famous people have already gotten their cold shiver on with the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. I mean athletes and celebrities like pro golfer Greg Norman, actress Elisha Cuthbert, Toronto Maple Leaf Dion Phaneuf, Household goddess Martha Stewart and even the Tampa Bay Rays mascot Raymond have completed and sent out their own challenges to other to also compete and complete the icy adventure.
I am simply flabbergasted that the watery “Tag..Your it!” endeavor has risen to such high standards with hundreds and thousands of people through their social media pages and messages calling for the friends, followers and even family to take a cold one for ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Amazingly enough, the event has raised over $150,000. Already this year and before the first leaf falls could surpass a quarter of a million dollars just by people all over the social map calling out others to douse themselves and to extend the challenge to their select intended targets to also partake and donate, then keep the cycle going…possibly all summer long.
And this awesome fund raising challenge actually has a bit of a baseball foundation. Seems that this whole icy situation began back in 2012 in the Boston, Mass area and quickly began to gain a more wet footing as friends, relatives and former teammates of former Boston College baseball player Pete Frates who was diagnosed with ALS.
Pete’s close knit group of friends, family and others decided used the cool idea as a visual physical challenge to raise awareness about ALS. Frates, 29, has been living with ALS since 2012 and has worked for The ALS Association’s Massachusetts Chapter. Frates is a former Divion1 college baseball player for Boston College and is a tireless champion for the foundation and its awareness.
Recently Pete’s own parents, John and Nancy along with 200 assembled dry souls doused themselves in Copley Square. His parents state that the ice bucket challenge has done more to increase the understanding about ALS than anything else they have imagined over the past 2 years.
How much has this event helped the ALS Association?
ALS Association National President Barbara Newhouse said donations to the national office have surged during the last 10-day period that ended this past Thursday to about $160,000. From $14,480 during the same period a year ago. And you have to believe that local and community chapter offices have not been able to give their donation yet, so a figure of $250,000. Seems within reach just for a few moments of uncomfortable chills for a tremendous cause.
I have been the subject of a ALS Ice Bucket Challenge twice now (8/10/14 & 08/17/14) and have been honored to take that heavily laced bucket of ice chips and some water and dumped it over my Rays capped noggin. I completed my first challenge after being called out by a former Colts teammate on August 10th and completed my second tour of icy goodness on Sunday, August 17th after a challenge was issued to former Baylor football players. I also donated $100 each time with the second donation being presented in the name of my daughter Alex Hougham.
All I can tell you is thank goodness it is 90+ degree in St. Petersburg, Fl right now so the water not only cooled me down, but kept my feet and shorts cool for an hour or two afterwards as I did not bring spare clothes (Hint: remember spare clothes, at least flip flops).
I mean I have heard of some wild challenges already like the one completed by Boston Bruins stars Brad Marchand and Torey Krug who willingly dropped frozen ice (not from Boston Garden) on themselves and then promptly issued their own set of challenges to their intended water-logged friends.
So friends, family and old arch-enemies be aware, for soon I might be calling you out to also partake in the chilling but totally satisfying adventure of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.
Now if only my Nike’s would dry out…
I love this new idea that has surfaced from the promotional minds of the Tampa Bay Rays. Bringing out one of a kind, Limited Edition bobbles to commemorate these hot and humid Florida months was a genius plan because we, as Rays fans crave special and unique items for our home collections.And the first offering of this special Rays bobblehead collection starts off with one truly hip and purrfect cat…DJ Kitty. That’s right, the Rays have started their collection with a bang and brought out a DJ Kitty 4th July bobble to begin all the collectors salivating and reaching for the unique item.
The Rays only produced 222 individual bobble for each month and they can only be purchased at the Tropicana Field Team Store or the downtown Tampa Team Store location while supplies last.
I bought 2 of the D J Kitty offering today via phone from the Tampa Team Store location and they will ship my little furry/sculptured creations to my home. Sure I did incur a shipping charge, but considering the cost of gas, my time and finding a parking space in downtown Tampa during business hours, the charge was not only reasonable, but the perfect option.
I did hear back from the Tampa Team Store as DJ Kitty will be a little bit different than the attached rendering as he will not be sporting a red and white striped cap as the manufacturer left the white stars option on the cap, but the whole top hat is red.
No biggie, that just makes them more of a collector’s item just like the Rays Jason Tyner bobble that was an instant collectible hit. Plus, the American League All-Star caps during the Home Run Derby will be red so DJ Kitty is showing some extra spirit for the AL squad in the Mid-Summer Classic.
As I mentioned before, the Rays will also offer 222 more Limited Edition bobble in August and September. Taking a wild guess by the outlines on the advert, I’m guessing August will be a water or surfing bobble possibly featuring our favorite hot dog eating mascot Raymond.
As soon as my fine feline statues get to my humble abode, I will post an additional photo of the DJ Kitty 4th of July bobble along with some updated information as to their size…….Hurry up Mr. parcel guy…I need my DJ Kitty fix.
Hurry only 220 DJ Kitty Limited Edition bobbles left….I got my bookend set!
“It was the Immaculate Inning.”
I loved this quote. Not that it brought a great illustration to the unique and almost unheard of task of producing 3 strikeouts on 9 pitches, but that the above comment came from Tampa Bay Rays rehabbing starter Alex Cobb, who himself had his own grand moment in his 3-inning simulated game earlier in the day.
How rare was this pitching moment?
Elias Sports Bureau shows only 1 other occurrence of this same feat ever in the game’s recorded history. The first time happened to another American League East team back on April 16, 2008 when then Toronto reliever Jesse Carlson came to the hill in the 11th inning of that contest with the bases loaded with Texas Rangers in the 11th inning.
Elias has limited historical access to pitch count records from the past, but you can see not only the unique nature of the feat, but that it’s occurrence is as rare as a M L B starter producing a No-No or perfect game. The element just have to be right and the magic seems to unfold.
In a season that has seen Cobb plus fellow hurlers Matt Moore and Jeremy Hellickson get chomped on by the injury bug, maybe this was a sign from the Baseball Gods all is not lost for the squad. Sometimes that solitary enlightened moment on the field can transcend to the dugout, to the stands and bring faith again to a team who might be pondering their prospects or questioning themselves personally.
If there was one aspect of the Rays game that needed this moment most, it was the Rays reliever corps. This band of brothers down the Rays right field line needed something tremendous to happen. This crew has been through the ringer lately as the Rays starters and offense have sputtered and occasionally gone limp taxing the Bullpen’s arms with sometimes back-to-back-to-back slow walks to the mound in the middle, late or extra innings.
I witnessed more than a few smiles, pumps of a fist and an almost instantaneous uplifting of the bench’s overall spirit when their fellow combatant Boxberger provided his quick and decisive elimination of Baltimore’s 6th inning scoring threat.
Boxberger, who has not allowed a run during his 9 innings of work during his 3 stints with the Rays this season showed why he sports a 0.00 ERA and has hitters hitting a combined 2 for 28 going into Saturday’s game. Boxberger has only been back up with the Rays since Tuesday might have done more good for the team as a whole with those 9 pitches than any of us truly imagine.
His effort will definitely be a unique Rays trivia question, but its true magic might have meant more to the assembled Rays crew as it brought a bright spot to a squad that not only needing a shining moment, but a occasion of emotional and triumphant clarity among the assembled chaos that has been the Rays current home stand.
Maybe Boxberger had the right initials for the night because it definitely seemed like his pitches were the size of BB’s as he shot down the Orioles hitters Steve Pearce, Jonathan Schoop and Caleb Joseph 1-2-3 and into the record books.
As I have mentioned before, the day I get to check out the Tampa Bay Rays new edition of their Media Guide is a day filled with adventure, intrigue and maybe even a little whimsical fun. Glancing over the awesome moments of our brood of baseball buddies always bring to light moment uncaught by our eyes and ears in the stands and produce stats and figures we never really realized for our guys who battle upon the turf.
So I decided to stay in the hurler mode today for my 2nd installment of the special career notes and humanitarian efforts of our firemen down on the First Base line who we affectionately know as the Bullpen. Depending on the type of relief corps your team possesses, they can either give you a warm feeling or outright panic when a starter begins to show fatigue.
Lucky for us here in Tampa Bay our relievers have shown more pluses than minuses over the last few season, but glitches do happen. Also we do not know yet if the Rays will carry 11 or 12 pitchers going into the season, so I’ll just take a coin flip and list the 6 guys I think might comprise the ‘Pen and a few names to possibly watch this spring.
Jake McGee: Jake and his wife Morgan went a bit “Italiano” this past November visiting Venice, Milan and George Clooney’s hangout Lake Como. During Christmas Eve this past year, Jake and his wife also visited local foster families in Reno, Nevada and provided the kids with Christmas gifts.
McGee is 2013 ranked second in the M L B among reliever southpaws with an average fastball velocity of 96.3 mph. The mark was the highest among American League leftie relievers. McGee also posted up second among all M L B relievers with throwing a fastball on 93 percent of his pitches. Makes sense McGee has been working on a few additional pitches this off-season to keep hitters guessing in 2014.
Even though Gomes only appeared 26 times in 2013 due to a right lat. Strain which sidelined him for 88 games, he did go 3-1 last season and split his season almost down the middle 14 games before/ 12 games after returning) between his injury stint. Could be a pitcher to watch this spring as he wants to show the Rays he is durable and consistent.
Cesar Ramos: He learned English at a bilingual preschool in Los Angeles, Calif. His parents immigrated from Chihuahua, Mexico 34 years ago seeking a better opportunity for their family. Cesar also has sister named Elena.
16 of Ramos 47 appearances in 2013 were 2 innings or longer which was the 4th highest number in the American League and most by a Rays reliever since J P Howell’s 23 in 2008. Ramos also secured his first M L B save after throwing 3 scoreless innings in Cleveland on May 31st.
Joel Peralta: Considered quitting baseball in 2002 following a demotion from Double-A Arkansas to Class-A Cedar Rapids while with the Angels. His older brother Frank persuaded him to stick with it and Joel responded by going 5-0 with 21 saves and a .95 ERA with the Kernels (THANKS Frank!).
Peralta led the majors in 2013 with 80 relief appearances, which puts in 2nd overall in Rays history behind Randy Choate (85 in 2010). It was Peralta’s 3rd straight season of 70+ appearances (227 over 3 seasons) and the cherry on top is Peralta led all M L B relievers with 41 Holds in 2013.
Heath Bell: Who knew the All-Star closer was also such a force in the kitchen? Bell made 24 gingerbread houses from scratch for his kids school. Heath hopes to meet Duffy, the Ace of Cakes this year when the Rays travel to Baltimore and would like to compete on the Food Network pastry competition show Sweet Genius someday.
Pitched in 69 games last season for the Arizona Diamondbacks. It was his 7th consecutive season of 60+ appearances. Ranked 3rd among M L B closers in saves (166) over the last 5 seasons. With Mariano Rivera now retired, only Philadelphia closer Jonathan Papelbon (173) remains in contention for the overall top spot.
Grant Balfour: Most people might not know Grant’s father after completing his rugby career became a leader in developing and promoting Australian baseball and served as the G M of the Sydney Blue Sox before retiring last August.
Grant saved a career high 38 games last season with only 3 blown saves. Over his last 24 appearances in 2013, Balfour had a 92.7 percent save percentage, 4th best in the AL and in A’s team history. He beat out his own 92.4 percent mark set in 2012 for the 4th spot. Converted 62 of 67 (92.5 %) save chances over the past 2 seasons.
Juan Carlos Oviedo: He might be one of the biggest question marks this spring in regards to the Bullpen. The team took a gamble on 2013 by signing him while he was rehabbing after a Tommy John’s surgery. They released him in the off-season, but quickly resigned him and invited him to spring camp. If healthy and firing on all cylinders this spring, could be a factor in the team’s Bullpen makeup and possibly send someone above away in a late spring trade.
Oviedo logged 92 saves from 2009-11. That total was 8th best in the M L B at that time and ranked him 3rd on the Miami Marlins all-time save list.
His last time pitching in a professional games was July 14, 2013 while with the Triple-A New Orleans Zephyrs.
As always, do not discount the names of Jeff Beliveau, Brad Boxberger, C J Riefenhauser, Josh Lueke or even Kirby Yates of not making noise in supplanting one of the above pitchers for a spot on the Rays 25-man roster. Even if none of these names make the final roster before Opening Day, their names will again be heard possibly at some point within Tropicana Field in 2014.
Also worth circling might be the name of Erik Bedard who might have a chance to fill the Rays long reliever role with their 2013 hurler. Alex Torres traded in the off-season. Bedard could also be a great fill-in starter in-house option for the Rays if he were willing to accept a non-starter gig in 2014.
Tomorrow we will hit the factoids concerning the players who should be deemed the starters in the Rays infield for 2014.
When I first heard the story about Jared Morris, who posted a blog onwww.midwestsportsfan.com recently that brought up the “speculation” of the Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Raul Ibanez may be indulging in some specially energized vitamin compound outside the rules of the game, I had a eerie recollection of a blog I wrote a few months back about the bloggers being the “Rodney Dangerfields of Journalism”.
In that blog I was wondering if we did not get the respect for what we did as an underlying check and balance system within the Internet community. I gained a lot more valuable insight on both sides of the issue after posting that article from both websites and media members. Both these entities will be here from now on, the collective joining of the two segments might be the key to everyone seeing and following the same guidelines and beliefs in the new media format.
We (bloggers) have been deemed the new storytellers of our generation. The way our grandparents used to take us aside and tell us wild tales of the Great Depression. We got a sense of the times that they lived through based on their stories. Today our recollections and thoughts that are typed onto the Information Highway can be taken with a grain of salt, or taken full bore as the truth or a lie depending on your own personal beliefs and opinions.
I always had the notion that a blogger being basically a buzzing horsefly bothering the cows (media) in the pasture. The cow swats us away at times, but knows we also serve some sort of purpose in the whole scheme of things and basically tolerates us because of it.
I also have to contend with the fact I acknowledge and view the blogging community format a bit different after reading the response blog posting and comments onwww.midwestsportsfan.com recently. I see where both side can get a bit animated on the issue posted in the blog. But the fact is the guy was not outright accusing him in any of the chosen words or phases, but the idea of some type of improper conduct seemed to condemn the blog before you even read it. But that is the essence of life in this era that sometimes fast information and recognition along with the lead into a blog posting can be the only thing read nowadays before opinions are based in our minds.
I have come upon the belief that sometimes your true words and thoughts do not fully seem to gel and mesh with your thoughts on paper/net until you hit that “Post” button, then it is too late to edit it. Once you click on it, the entry is out there for any level of interpretation or dissection it merits. I am not one of those people who posts a blog then re-write it 20 minutes later after second thoughts. The before mentioned blog did cause a bit of a hassle for me for about one day, then like most online entries, it was yesterday’s news. Since that time, not one comment or even a glance has been made towards that blog. It was now out of sight, out of mind.
I made sure I read the so-called “offending blog” today again before viewing the video about the incident from a recent ” Outside the Lines” show, I can see the views of both sides a bit clearer on the issue at hand. I really do believe as Ken Rosenthal of ESPN and John Gonzalez of the Philadelphia Inquirer hinted that 5 years ago, this type of “speculation” blog article would have fallen by the wayside and not gotten more than a quick read or even a glance from anyone on the Internet.
It is the new found responsibility and unwritten status now from all of us to maybe rethink some of our own boundary lines when we write accusation or speculation blog entries. In the last few years, most of the countries newspapers, and even blog sites like ESPN.com have made their feature blogs and articles a reading mainstay of their reporting outside of the televised or printed editions of the news. Newspapers are going digital every day. It is for this reason that even a blogger can now be held more responsible, as a kind of “uncarded media member” for their thoughts and comments. Which has its own set of pitfalls and future problems.
Twitter,Facebook, Myspace, and even MLBlogs.com do have people who read your blogs daily. You might be doing it as an added entertainment factor for your love of the game, but “Joe Yankee” fan might take offense to your personal rendition and responses to their heroes Mark Teixeira or Alex Rodriguez being used as fodder for your ever growing blog popularity. I have to admit that I take a bit of a relaxed approach at times to blogging more for the fact that this is not sourced journalism where I have access to players,coaches and team personnel to get added information.
Most of what I find out is on written media sources or face-to-face conversations with players or team officials. Even my simple sidebar postings of the Rays injury updates daily comes from either the local media members, or from personal comment from players or staff about their injury status. I recently talked to two injured Rays players who told me they are starting their throwing programs this Friday. I am not paid,compensated so to find a nice gem of a comment or can make it all worth it at times.
Sometimes the lines get foggy and muted and to cross them can be as simple as that first step. Accountability and accuracy is the keystone of writing in a journalistic format. To check and double-check is a part of the lifeblood you are taught in that first Journalism class. And to think no one is watching or even reading your stuff is a recipe for disaster. But when a person blogs, most of us know usually only a group of 10-20 people who tend to read our stuff, but every once in a while, someone or some site stumbles upon your writing and either takes offense, or sees your point of view and advertises it to the rest of the world too.
The basic premise is a blog is suppose to be the format for personal thoughts, ideas and opinions. The true nature of the beast here is that the bloggers and their readers have grown tremendously in size and importance to be a unwritten focal point of life today. Perez Hilton and other gossip bloggers like him now have a millions of followers because of their outlandish and sometimes erroneous thoughts online. But they still do the basic sweat equity to find out if there is merit to their posting before throwing someone under the bus.
The odd part of all of this is not words or phrases accused Ibanez of wrongdoing, just a questioning of the state of the sport right now after recent finding of some of our heroes abusing the system, and some getting caught red-handed in unfortunate surrounding and actions. I think it is part of the unchained responsibility of blogging to not always trust everything you read and see, but to research and bring your own side of the story too. I know some media sources have agendas that tend to make them more “homers” when they write blogs or articles about our teams and their players.
Should we get the same treatments that mainstream journalists get if they mess up and write something unsourced and ambiguous. I am more and more insight into this
subject after erroneous posting and comments. But then again, the “He said, She said” mentality of most blogging communities tends to bring to light the honest facts that personal opinions are fine spoken verbally within a small group of people, but voice it online and you can attract more than just a comment. In the blog written by Jared Morris, it doesn’t scream either libel or slander because the intention here was to voice a concern or speculation and not establish fact or circumstances to even thrust Ibanez into the light for further examination by anyone within or outside of the sport.
But I can see where established journalists can come out and condemn and accost him for his efforts. They might agree with his logic or opinions in their minds, but their journalistic integrity questions the way it was presented to the public via the Internet. But that is the fine line that we cross sometimes without noticing it until we hit that “Post” button.
What looks great to us on the initial posting can turn into a firestorm just as quickly as this blog’s speculation of adverse numbers because of a suspected PED abuse. His blog actually reads more to me as a true “tongue-in-cheek” action-reaction to Ibanez’s extreme upward trend in his statistics. But it is also being anointed as the key piece of evidence to why there needs to be change in the blogging world in accordance to unsourced or opinion-based blog postings.
I think the comment by Rosenthal near the end of the video puts it all into better prospective here. “It is the power of the written word. That is what we are all taught. You have to be careful, you have to be clear, you have to be responsible,” Rosenthal stated in the OTL segment. In response to the idea that the blog was written without due thought process he added, “I am sorry, as well intended as he (Morris) might have been, you can’t tell me he met these standards in this case.”
People who write online do have to use a bit more consideration and thought before hitting the “Post” button. I am guilty of it myself. But that is also one of the things that sometimes drives us to the Internet. It is like the reason people slow down to watch a traffic accident, or watch video of celebrities becoming moving train wrecks for their actions. The basic facts is that opposing viewpoints bring about discussion, which can be great for enlightenment and understanding on certain subjects. But they also open you to huge avenues of opinion and commentary either positive or negative towards your own views.
This controversy can be food for thought. Either you are going to see merits, or you will go about your business as usual. Me, I am still riding the fence here, but I also know that this will not be the last time we read or hear about an outburst in the blogging world. But hopefully we can all learn a bit from the experience…or not.
It gets to me sometimes how people tend to wrap the “Tampa ” label on the city by the Bay more and more on national baseball broadcasts, ESPN Sportscenter and during post-game interviews. The St. Petersburg area is the 4th largest cities in the state,and would be a far bigger city if it was not for that body of water on three sides of it.
But the media has a love affair and always get wrapped up in the sheets and covers of St. Pete’s brotherly city over the water just east of them. It is not easy to understand sometimes since this city has had a long love affair with baseball since even before the 1900’s. And to add to it all, the Minor League Baseball office is located in our fair city in front of Progress Energy Fields box offices right down by the waterfront.
The City of St. Petersburg, Florida has always had the moniker of being a town where older people go to die. It has been affectionately called, ” Town of the Newlyweds and Nearly Deads” for as long as I have been alive. It is a town known throughout the world for the endless green benches, sunshine almost 360 days a year, and a bridge span that collapsed onto a tanker in the late 70’s. But did you know that it was the last stop for President John F Kennedy before he left for Dallas, Texas?
The game’s Sunshine State history reaches back to amateur ballclubs of the 1870s. In 1888, major league clubs began putting down Florida roots when the Washington Nationals came to the Jacksonville area for spring training. St. Petersburg welcomed owner Branch Rickey and the St. Louis Browns in 1914, and new transportation routes in the 1920s drew still more springtime teams–many lured to St. Pete by businessman and former mayor, Al Lang.
Baseball has been in the seasonal lifeblood of the region for over 100 years. And with so many clubs using this area for Spring Training, it is about expected that residual energy and phantom sightings and events would blanket the area with a paranormal presence. I have heard all kinds of stories growing up about the early days of baseball in Florida. Sightings among the mist at ballparks and strangers sitting in the empty dugouts that vanish when you walk up to them. Mystery and baseball sometimes go hand in hand with each other.
Stories of ballplayers’ like Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig staying in local downtown hotels, like the Ponce De Leon and Don Ce Sar Resort. And also unthinkable stories of events that today would cause an uproar, like how local innkeepers and restaurant owners would not let former Cardinals pitcher Bob Gibson and some other african-american players eat or sleep with the rest of the team’s players due to beliefs that would be considered horrific today. In the 1940’s, racism was a social problem in the south, and ghostly reminders rear their heads at old haunts like Mirror Lake or beyond the top of “Thrill Hill” off 3rd Street South near Bayboro Harbor.
I have heard rumors and enuendos about deep sea boat trips deep into the Gulf of Mexico to follow game fish like the Marlin and players missing baseball games because of losing track of time out on the high seas. I actually saw a photo of Ruth and Gehrig deep sea fishing off the coast of Florida in of all places, the Diamond Club at Safeco Field. Take the stadium tour, you will see that, and an awesome photo of Babe Ruth as a Red Sox pitcher. Also the stories ans urban legends of the elaborate shindigs and parties attended by some of baseball’s elite players in places like the old Hermitage Hotel, or the Detroit Hotel’s courtyard, which is now the Jannis Landing concert venue.
With all that wild actitivites and the bold and brass characters of old-time baseball, you would think some of that would still be here, coasting within our eyesight. There are reminders everywhere in the city of baseball’s past here. Little did I know how much of the past still is present in St. Petersburg until I made a pilgrimage to my local bookstore. I went on a baseball book hunt to one of the classic bookstore, Haslems to try and find some old editions or volumes written about baseball.
Now I know I could have gone to Barnes and Noble, or any other cookie-cutter store with their coffee shops and muffins, but I wanted to have a literary expedition into the past. I do not know what it is about an old bookstore that makes you feel, well nostalgic. Maybe it is the smell of the aging pages and binders glue, or maybe the accumulation of dust and mildew on some collections, but you can always find somethnig to peak your interest.
If you have never heard about Haslems’ ,it is a huge collection and mish-mosh of books discarded and obtained from people and sources all over the world and every book known to man seems to flow to them. I came away with a few great books about our national pastime. They had a huge selection of autobiographies and collections of stories concerning baseball. I have to check out this book, ” The 30-Year Old Rookie” the next time I am in there.
One of the book I chose was, Haunted Baseball, by Mickey Bradley and Dan Gordon. To start with, the authors are Boston Red Sox and New York fans, which puts them in good company with the bandwagon fans the Rays attract 64 games a year ( minus the 17 against the AL East foes ) tends to attract at once to the Trop. this year. The book is a fantastic collection of events depicting the ghosts, practical celestrial games, and unexplained phenoms concerning baseball and some oif the hotel, motels and Holiday Inns around the league and the minors.
And to my delight, within the inside pages is a unique insight and local history of apparitions, events and local urban legends that only back up old stories and unwitnessed events I was told as a child. I have enjoyed reading this book. The authors have done alot of research with players, coaches and experts in the field of the unsual and the unknown. From the first chapter based on events in St. Petersburg, and it peaked my interest to revisit and explore these places again and again.
The first chapter is dedicated to a St. Petersburg park that sits less than a few miles from Tropicana Field, the Rays current home. I used to run around this park as a child and fish in it’s lake and read under, and climb the huge banyan trees. The park has always had a eerie feeling to me,like someone was watching you from a distance, and I did not know why. Cresent Lake Park is also the site of Huggins-Stengel Field, which was one of the Spring Training sites for the old Yankees, Mets, Cardinals Orioles, and the young years of the Tampa Bay D-Rays..
Huggins-Stengel field located in the Southeastern corner of the park near the huge silver colored watertower that has served as a landmark since the 1920’s. My grandfather used to live on 13th Avenue North between 5th and 6th Streets, less than a city block from the field. He used to take hours telling me about the legends both concerning the field and the playerd who called it home for many years. One of the wildest adventures into the bizzare world of the paranormal concerns former Yankee greats’ Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle .
It is said that the spirit of the “Bambino” loved the Florida sunshine and the city so much that his spirit is still here, Some say that occsionally a figure is seen sitting in the dugout at twilight wearing a Yankee jersey on the third base side of Huggins-Stengel Field and can still be witnessed on occasions usually before the weather turns cold in Florida. Mikey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio patroled centerfield at the complex, and legend has it that the day after they died a brown spot turned up in the exact spots both of them used to play on the field.
Ruth also was playing in the outfield once and a bull gator decided to sun himself in deep centerfield and chased the “Bambino” from the field . Ruth also used to hit monster shots down the vine-covered leftfield area and kids used to clamor for the balls. Some say a lone figure is sometimes seen out there in the early morning mist just standing in centerfield as if waiting for a ball to be hit his direction. Most take this apparition to be Ruth, who loved playing at this quaint location better than the Yankees old facility in New Orleans. Truth be told, the Yankees moved the spring training site to St. Petersburg to keep Ruth from Bourbon Street and the late night life of New Orleans.
The old clubhouse is the scene of several unsual and unexplained happenings. It was like a second home to alot of the Yankee stars who spent plenty of late hours there before heading to the team hotel in town. After the D-Rays moved all their operation to the Ray Namoli complex in the Jungle area of town, the team turned the location over to the City of St. Petersburg, who converted the old clubhouse to an office space currently occupied by the St. Petersburg Parks and Recreation team TASCO.
At Huggins-Stengel Field, some also say the ghost of Casey Stengel is said to have been seen and felt in the old clubhouse. Two plaques in front of a building are dedicated to Miller Huggins and Casey Stengel and that it was the New York Mets spring clubhouse for more than 20 years are all that distinguishes it from the dozens of other baseball fields in the city. There are 3 ex-MLB training sites in the city that are still standing. Besides Huggins-Stengel, there is the Busch Complex ( St. Louis Cardinals ) off 62nd Avenue Northeast, and the Namoli complex ( Mets, Orioles, Cards, Rays ) next to the Walter Fuller Community center in the Jungle Prade area of St. Petersburg.
Legend has it Ruth gave up shagging flies on the first day of spring training in 1925 because an alligator emerged from Crescent Lake to sunbath in the outfield. Ruth is said to be one of the few players to put a ball into the lake about 500 feet from home plate in right field. Among the others: Mets slugger Dave Kingman.
It is a series of wild tales of ghostly sightings and unexplained sounds and smells concerning the vast history that has graced this cement block building. The old Yankees clubhouse, built in the 1930s, was torn down and replaced by the current one in the early 1960s. Lockers from the original clubhouse were moved to the new one, and one of the wood stalls greets visitors in the entrance to the building now used for offices for a teenagers program, TASCO.
One of the wildest and most interesting tales concerns a thick cigar odor that is strong in the AM when the TASCO workers come in the morning, and the strange and odd happening after dark in the building. It is said that former Yankee manager Miller Huggins was a huge cigar smoker and would often light up in the clubhouse or the surrounding areas. But the lone figure in the dugout near nightfall has more of a place in the local lore. Some say it is the shadows that play against the overgrowth in leftfield that give the dugout its errie glow and shadows right before sunset.
I used to deliver Pepsi product to TASCO as a Special Events Coordinator, and I always had an uneasy feeling in that building. If I knew about these events, I would have loved to stay the night or visit there at night. The park is patrolled by local police looking for illegal activities, not ghosts during the night. The St. Petersburg Police Department has never had to respond to a burglar call or break-in at the complex, and the motion alarms have never been set off by the nightly escapades.
The third chapter of the book features the World famous Vinoy hotel where countless stories have victimized visiting teams, and newly promoted Rays players staying in the resort for Rays games. The hotel was vacant for over 20 years and fell into major disrepair before the site was cleaned up and restored to it’s current state. It has been a long time since the hotel was a vacant shell on the waterfront, but true natives know how much the hotel transformed the Straub Park and Vinoy area back to respectability and extreme comfort for local visitors’.
The book goes into detail about the haunting and shenaigans of the spectres’ in the old wing of the hotel. I know of one death in the hotel from when it was an abandoned shell. It is of a homeless guy who fell into the water-filled elevator shaft and drowned because there was no one there to hear him scream for help, or rescue him. Legend has it that sometimes the walls of the elevators produce a banging sound and the elevator shakes like someone trying to get in from below or above the unit.
I have also stayed in this hotel a few times on the 5th floor of the old wing and have not had a truly restful night sleep . One time it was due to weird scratching noises outside my 6th floor window. I took it as a dove or bird trying to find a niche for the night. Never thought about a ghostly apparition or spectre causing the chaos. I also know of doors and windows that have been locked, then appear open to the outer halls during the night while people have been asleep inside of the rooms. The main ballroom has been said to have nightly ghost parties where voices and footsteps are regular occurrances to unsuspecting staff members.
It has a Rays’ twist in the form of a ghostly haunting involving Jon Switzer when he first got promoted up to the big club. You have to read the account to believe it. It is a tale you would not believe unless you read it. Other players and coaches have had events happen to them in this spirited hotel. There is even one player from the Cleveland Indians who will not sleep in the hotel due to a bad night sleeping or the feelings he gest from the old haunt.
the paranormal is present so much that it was profiled in an ESPN story involving the Cincinnati Reds reliever Scott Williamson. He says he was held down in his bed by an unforseen force in the night and in later research, it was noted that the former landowner of the Vinoy site before the hotel was built was also named Williamson.
As you can see, some residents of the past might have come back to St. Petersburg to check back into the hotel to rediscover their glory days or even revisit the best times of their lives. The city has always had a southern charm and relaxing feel to it, but the bumps in the night have gotten a new meaning after reading that book. I recommend that anyone who enjoys tales of paranormal or unforetold strange happenings should check out this book. The authors’ also have a blog page here on MLBlogs.com where they leave blogs entries from time to time. Here is the page if you are interested in either the book, or their blogs: http://hauntedbaseball.mlblogs.com .
Well, got to go run by old Cresent Lake on my morning jog, maybe I will see the figure in the mist, or an old bull gator that could to be the re-incarnation of Babe Ruth on the lake bank behind the centerfield wall……………wish me luck, I love the unexplained.
I have been reluctant to include my trivia questions in the past few blogs because no one seems to want to comment,or even try and figure them out.
Here is a Yankee/Red Sox teaser for your pleasure:
Who has the best lifetime win percentage as a starting pitcher against the New York Yankees?
Answer at the end of the Blog.
I have to weigh in my two pennies on the recent Rays/Yankees debate concerning new Yanks skipper Joe Girardi and a recent home plate collision. If you are wondering what I am referring to, it is the home plate car wreck between Yankees’ catcher, Francisco Cervelli and the Rays’, Elliot Johnson. I understand that most players are not up to par yet with the speed of the game in the early stages of Spring Training.
That the “rookies” or select Minor League players’ invited to the MLB camp, are seeking to open eyes or even earn a coveted roster spot with the big club. Because of this situation,they ( Minor Leaguers’ )might hustle or take a few risks with base running decisions. They also want to show a willingness to do what is needed to win.
It is in that vein, that I personally feel that Elliott Johnson did what was needed at the moment of the collision. He went into home plate trying to jar the ball out of the catchers mitt to score another run, not with intent to harm,dismember, or cause such a ruckus out of the Yankee camp.
A few days earlier, All-Star Left Fielder,Carl Crawford bulldozed a catcher in a Spring Training game and there was not even a hint of controversy or bad decision making put towards his actions. Of course, in that collision,Crawford was able to jar the ball from the catcher, no one was injured or taken from the game,and the Rays earned a much needed run against their opponent.
Hustle and willingness to do what is needed is what secures these “invitees” a roster spot,or at least another weeks with the big squad before going to the Ray Namoli complex, which is the site of the Minor League camp.
Now Carl did not have to drive himself into the catcher and dislodge the ball on spec, but it showed he is ready to do whatever is needed to win this year. That is a veteran sign that he is here to play and take no prisoners.
And that, gets both the Rays’ fan base and Joe Maddon’s attention.
Earlier in the Yankee game, New York invitee, Bernie Castro was rounding third with Rays’ catcher Shawn Riggans squared up on the dish. Castro could have easily dusted Riggans off the plate, but Shawn left a nice hole for Castro to hook slide around his tag. Base running decisions have to be made in a split second. Both players had to assess the situation and do what was needed to score, or pervent a run. Castro, by sliding in under Riggans, scored the only Yankee run of that game.
He did not need to remove Riggans and ball to score. Question is, did Johnson have the same options? Answer, No, the relay throw was going to beat him to the plate by a stride, and in a Pete Rose-Ray Fosse moment he buried his shoulder into Cervelli.
He could have slide and maybe gotten in there( doubtful),or he could become a Mike Alstott A-train clone and bulldoze the Yankees minor league catcher. We know what his decision was, and I am totally in his corner for what he did.I was an aggressive base runner also in college, and used to not look back when i had to come in rough on a second baseman or a catcher. I did it when I felt it was needed to help the team. Either as a enthusiastic moment, or a game-changing play, it was done in a split second and no regrets could stop the momentum.
I can see why new Yankees skipper Joe Girardi would be a bit flustered or upset about such a play involving two Minor Leaguer’s doing their all to make an impression on their managers.
But, Joe, this part of Spring Training is a time for these guys to show you what they got, and make you remember their names in your nightly meetings with your coaching staff. And all the Minor League guys know that the decision time is nearing for each of them. Johnson will probably not make the Rays’ final 25 man roster, but he made a huge impression on both teams.
Either you are for or against his actions, there is no middle ground here. In his playing days, Joe Girardi was a feisty and gutsy catcher with the Yankees. He knows what it takes to hold onto the ball in a train wreck situation. That is what I find kind of “whiny” here about the Yankee skipper.
Remember, this is the manager who told his Florida Marlins’ team owner to, “Shut up!”, when the owner was heckling a umpire during a game. Does that sound like the same guy who whined to the press about the event, and did not even consult or send a message to Rays skipper, Joe Maddon about the collision before the newspapers were printed and on his doorstep.
How many Yankee fans are thinking WWTD right now. (What Would Torre’ Do?).
I know that Girardi is in the infant stage of his managerial career, but is this the thing he wants to be remembered for this Spring?
He has a few holes in his team, and questions that needed to be addressed on personnel and setting his starting rotation.
And he pick this play to spouts off about this?
Both Joes’ have different opinions about the event. Joe Maddon,the Rays’ manager sees it as a rite of Spring basically. Hard nosed baseball that unfortunately ended in a Yankee injury. (Francisco Cervelli could be out 8-10 weeks with an injury). What would either manager have said if the events was reversed. Johnson was hurt in that play, or Riggans in a prior home plate play. If Cervelli had dropped the ball and the Rays scored another run to make it a 5-1 win, would it have been different or still have the same effect on Girardi.
I personally think Joe Maddon would not be crying to the heavens wanting the baseball gods to rain displeasure down on anyone. He would have applauded the effort and give kudos for the hard nosed-style of play of Johnson. I am including a video from that game,shot by a Yankee fan. It shows both home plate plays and you can make up your own mind on the issue of the collision.
In closing, I think the comments of Yankee savant and yoda, Don Zimmer speak volumes here: “Of all people – Joe Girardi’s a tough guy, a tough catcher. I don’t know what spring training’s got to do with it,” Zimmer said. “I think he was out of line. That’s the best way I can put it, whether he likes that or not. That’s the way I feel.”
Amen Yankee Yoda, Amen.
I am all for hard play and hustle on the diamond. If Delmon Young had more hustle than his mouth, he would still be patrolling right field in the Trop for the Rays.
The answer to the Trivia Question is:
Former Yankee great, Babe Ruth. When he was first with the Boston Red Sox, he owned the New York Yankees on the mound.